High School Debut 1 by Kazune Kawahara: A-

From the back cover:
Back in junior high, Haruna Nagashima was only interested in two things: softball and manga. Now that she’s starting high school, Haruna’s focus has changed—she wants to snag a boyfriend and have the romance of her dreams!

After blindly following the advice of fashion magazines and the like, Haruna fails to win the eye of any guy. Convinced that a coach is needed (just like when she trained for softball), she recruits cute upperclassman Yoh Komiyama to instruct her on how to make herself more appealing. Yoh agrees, with one catch: Haruna had better not fall for him!

At its core, High School Debut is a cute story with likable characters. Oh sure, Haruna is a girl who’s hopelessly clueless about something and has a blunt but kind boy nearby to steer her in the right direction and rescue her at key moments, which is not the most original concept ever, but the focus is on the right things, like being one’s self and learning what qualities are really most important in a prospective boyfriend.

It’s fun and refreshing and I like it a lot. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the shopping trip chapter; it felt like an episode of What Not to Wear, which I admit to watching on occasion. The one thing that bugs me is that Yoh instructs Haruna to stop working out. Apparently only weak and spindly women are attractive? At least Yoh’s buddy, Fumi, doesn’t think so. He seems to like her the way she is, and by the end of the volume, Haruna thinks she might be in love with him.

One of the things I must praise is the art. Kawahara employs some standard shoujo tricks to be sure, like relying on sparkly tone for the background of many panels, but maintains a distinctive style. Though the use of tone is generous, it doesn’t result in a cluttered page. She does innovative things with layouts. But most importantly, each of the main characters is facially unique. This is not one of those series where all the boys look the same except for interchangeable hair. I particularly like the look of Haruna’s best friend, Mami; she looks like she might be more at home in a josei manga.

I note that this was serialized in Margaret like two of my other favorites, Boys Over Flowers and Love*Com. If I were a Japanese person, I think I know to which magazine I’d be subscribing!

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  1. One thing that might be useful to include in your reviews is when a particular title was published (in the US) and how many total volumes there are (if it’s done in Japan).

    Not that we couldn’t find this out for ourselves but I am lazy…

  2. Hm. Sometimes I do mention it in the course of the review, but it’s not, like, a standard data element. I’ll think about how something like that might be incorporated.

    About this title in particular, the first five volumes are available now. The sixth is due on November 4th. The series is released bimonthly, usually on the first Tuesday of the month, and is complete at 12 volumes.

  3. That’s good to know. Your description was interesting enough that I might actually consider trying to get it. If there’s 12 volumes and 6+ left to go then I’d hopefully expect all of them to remain in print for at least the next year.

    So I don’t need to rush; I can wait until I catch up a bit more on my other neglected series.

  4. Yeah, I’d expect them to be available for a while. If my calculations are correct, the final volume will come out in November ’09, so you could wait and have a marathon. đŸ™‚ By then, they’ll probably be 4-for-3 at Amazon, too.

  5. Addendum: Actually, there will be 13 volumes in this series.

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